How to Use Root Tabs to Fertilize Aquarium Plants
Your live aquatic plant is not growing or losing its leaves despite receiving plenty of light and liquid fertiliser. Most aquarium plants can absorb nutrients from both the water and the substrate (e.g., gravel, sand, or aquatic soil), but some species prefer one method over the other. If your plant is a “root feeder” that favors consuming from its roots, then we need to give it a nutrient-rich substrate or ground-based fertilizers called root tabs.
What Are Root Tabs?
Root tabs contain either capsules or dissolvable tablets that can be used as plant fertilizer. Aquarium Co-Op recommends our Easy Root Tabs. They are made with red clay and mineralized top soil, which contain essential plant nutrients such as:
– Magnesium – Nitrate – Phosphate – Potassium – Manganese – Zinc – Molybdenum – Iron
Easy Root Tabs come in green fertilizer capsules that are safe for fish even if they dissolve in the water.
Are root tabs safe for fish, shrimp, and snails? Yes, our brand of root tabs is safe for all animals. The reason is because we use actual soil in our root tabs that is nontoxic if the nutrients get released into the water column. Some people try to save money by making their own DIY root tabs or using fertilizers meant for houseplants and vegetables, but those terrestrial products can cause dangerous ammonia spikes in the water that may kill your fish and invertebrates.
Which aquarium plants require root tabs?
Root tabs will be of great benefit to cryptocoryne plants (or the crypts), sword and bulb plants, as well as carpeting and carpeting plants. Although moneywort and bacopa stem plants can take fertilizer from the ground or water, they prefer to use the former. Root tabs are not necessary for plants that don’t require substrate, such as anubias and floating plants or java fern.
How to use Root Tabs
Because root tabs are water soluble, the key is to insert them into the substrate as quickly and deeply as possible. It’s okay if Easy Root Tabs accidentally pop out or get unearthed by your fish because they won’t harm the water quality, but ultimately, we want the root feeders to have access to more nutrients in the ground. Therefore, use planting tweezers or your fingers to push the whole root tab to the bottom of the substrate. The fertilizer must not be removed from the capsule as it can dissolve in water.
Plunge root tab as far as you can into the substrate.
How many root tabs should you use? Place one tab approximately every 5-6 inches (12-15 cm) in a grid so that they cover the entire substrate. If your fish tank is very densely planted, you may need to add root tabs every 4 inches (10 cm) or closer. Ideally, the root tabs should be inserted directly underneath or near the roots of your plants. To keep larger plants, like Amazon swords, well-fed, you may need several root tabs that are placed in a circular circle around their base.
How do I get the root tabs to stop floating? There is air inside the root tab capsule that causes it to float. To make it sink, poke a hole in one end of the capsule using a pushpin and then squeeze the root tab once it’s underwater. The hole will allow air bubbles to escape, but your root tab will not be affected.
How often should you add more root tabs?
Even if you use a nutrient rich substrate, nutrients can be used up quickly so it is important to replenish them regularly. For healthy growth, we suggest adding root tabs every other month. This is especially true if the substrate you use is inert like aquarium gravel, sand or sand. Also, remember that as plants grow bigger, they will require more root tabs. A baby Amazon sword that is newly planted may only need 1 root tab every six weeks, but three months later, that same plant may need six tabs per month to sustain it.
You can determine if your plants have eaten all of the fertilizer in the substrate by looking for signs of nutrient deficiency. You may notice a decrease in growth, yellowing, browning, or melting of leaves, even though the plant had been growing well. For more information on providing proper plant nutrients, read the full article linked below. Have fun with your tank and be sure to enjoy the outdoors every day.